There was this person I used to be, long ago, a person with interests and opinions, a person who did things. Then one day while I was busy being a doer of things, I was given the beautiful gift of motherhood and I lost myself to it.
It’s a familiar story. We become mothers and are instantly drunk on the joy of it. We succumb to the all-consuming, overwhelming nature of it. It happens even before we give birth. From the moment we learn that there is life growing inside of us, we can’t stop thinking about it. And who could blame us? A new human is being created and the enormity of that fact is hard to escape.
So the obsession begins.
Each day, we log onto websites to see what stage of growth the baby is in, what our symptoms mean, what to expect in the coming days and months. We pour over our stockpile of books on caring for babies and spend hours researching the right cribs, car seats and diapers. The vast amount of information available on even the most minuscule topic is beyond overwhelming.
There is no end to that information pool and we just keep swimming in it.
When the baby arrives, a whole new obsession emerges. We stare at our babies for hours, we listen to them breathe, we smell their sweet newness. Each day is different than the previous one and we race to document it, share it, discuss it, dissect it. Added to our intoxicating love for our babies is the sheer overwhelming non-stop exhaustion. There is no way to prepare for it and no way to avoid it. It just becomes a part of who you are and you learn to function in a constant state of confusion and sleep deprivation.
Each new stage of a child’s life brings with it something to marvel at and something to immerse yourself in, along with new demands. I threw myself into each change and development with everything I had. I was determined to WIN at this motherhood game. Everything I did was about my daughters. I became the mom who spun a life out of educational crafts and child-friendly adventures. There was no time for me, for my interests, or for my being a fully present partner to my husband. I wasn’t even aware of it at first, this loss of myself. Still drunk on the newness of motherhood, I happily continued on.
I didn’t see a movie in the theater for almost 5 years because that meant finding someone to watch the children, a thought that terrified me. I rarely even watched a movie at all. There was the occasional at-home movie rental, but those were even rare in the early years. By the time my oldest daughter was 2, I was pregnant for the 2nd time and my exhaustion doubled. I spent the entire day caring for and chasing after a toddler, so that when the evening came round, I didn’t have the energy to stay up and watch a movie.
I didn’t listen to grown-up music since I was at home with a toddler all day. My CD player was churning out Laurie Berkner and Nick Jr CD’s every chance it got. There were no concerts, no cleaning the house blasting all the music I now labeled as inappropriate for little ears. And in the car, the little ones were always there too, so the Laurie Berkner CD’s came along with us.
For all the same reasons, I forgot what it was to read a book. Or at least a book that wasn’t about toddler behavior, crafts for kids, or best parenting methods. Books about fictional stories were my dear old friends, long forgotten and left collecting dust on the shelves. They became relics of a life I could no longer remember.
I used to think things about things, but those thoughts were gone too.
I thought I was winning at the motherhood game, but in reality I was setting myself up to fail miserably at being a person, a whole person that existed outside the role of mother. I wanted my daughters to look up to me as someone, a woman, with interests and ideas and the conviction and confidence to wear them proudly. I never intended to present them with a facade, this shell of a person I thought I was supposed to be.
In the midst of struggling to be an amazing mom, life began to throw heavy obstacles at me. These were the kind of life events that have the power to send a person spiraling into depression or to come out fighting. I spent several years stumbling down into that depressing darkness. The person I used to be seemed to be gone forever and without her, I struggled to find something solid to grab onto as I descended into unhappy places. It was a very lonely place to be and the fake shiny happy persona that I had constructed for myself, for my children, didn’t have the strength to pull me out. That woman was paper thin and crumpled.
Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, the old me, the real me, decided to wake up. The old me said, “Snap out of this shit! What the hell have you done?” The old me used to swear, A LOT. The old me was pretty damn sarcastic and opinionated. She was never cool and composed. She laughed too loud and talked too fast and often said inappropriate things.
I had forgotten how much I loved her.
The old me dragged the new me out of the dark pit, despite the kicking and screaming. She ignored my cries to be left alone, told me to shut the hell up, and just kept pulling me free. Suddenly I began to remember, all those pieces of me long buried in a mountain of child-centered projects. I rediscovered books, movies, music, and my love of putting words on paper. Now I live my life in a time warp, listening to 7 years worth of music, devouring TV shows and movies on Netflix with a desperate hunger because I feel like I have missed so much. My stack of books to read grows daily and I find myself consuming at a dizzying pace.
It’s not lost on me that this awakening happened the same year my youngest child entered school. In the quiet of my children’s absence, there was more room for me. I found the time and space to breathe outside their presence and rediscover myself. I like to believe that getting back to my real self is not only the key to my own genuine happiness, but also the key to being the kind of mom I wanted to be all along.
I want to be the mom who shows her children the joy of having passions and interests in life. I want to be the inspiration that lights the fire inside them to seek out the things in this world that speak to their hearts.
Because ultimately, it is the example of a life lived fully and honestly that is the greatest gift any parent can give.
Previously published on Words are My Weapons